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Thaksin’s in-law voted new PM

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September 17, 2008

Thailand Political Stalemate:
Thaksin’s in-law voted new PM
Parliament ratifies Asean Charter

A majority of Thai lawmakers Wednesday voted to elect ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's brother-in-law the new prime minister, with 298 lawmakers representing the ruling and coalition parties supporting the candidacy of 61-year-old Somchai Wongsawat, who was married to Yaowapa, the younger sister of former prime minister Thaksin, according to the local live TV broadcast and wire news reports.

Yaowapa was a member of the now-defunct Thai Rak Thai Party and lost her voting right when the party was dissolved. His daughter Chinnicha is the youngest female MP in the current House of Representatives.

The prospect of a prime minister related to the disgraced, deposed Thaksin and linked to his allies in the ruling People's Power Party was unlikely to disperse anti-government protesters who have been camped at the prime minister's official compound since August 26, reported the Associated Press.

The ruling People's Power Party and its governing coalition hold 306 of the lower house's 480 seats while the lone opposition Democrat Party has 164. Former prime minister Samak Sundaravej did not attend the House meeting held to elect his successor Wednesday.

Somchai's nomination was officially decided Tuesday by a consensus among the ruling party lawmakers while leaders and key members from all five coalition partners announced at a press conference later they would support Somchai's leadership.

Somchai has been serving as acting prime minister since the Constitutional Court terminated the premiership of Samak Sundaravej for breaching conflict of interest rules by appearing on cookery shows while in office. He was deputy prime minister and education minister in Samak's Cabinet.

Upon taking office Somchai is expected to focus on bringing about unity, local daily the Nation quoted Yongyuth Tiyapairat, former deputy leader of the ruling People Power Party as saying.

Yongyuth told the daily that Somchai would set laws aside and send conciliatory signals to the People's Alliance for Democracy, the anti-government alliance that has occupied the government house since late August.

Meanwhile, Thai parliamentary on Tuesday evening ratified the Asean Charter which came as a relief for Asean Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan who had been worried that the country’s political turmoil would delay Thailand ratifying the document.

"Thailand has taken an important step as the chair because there have been some reservation of its ability and commitment to take care of the Asean community," Surin was quoted as telling the Nation in an interview.

The ratification came in the wake of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s suggestion Monday that Thailand should give up the current Asean chair to either Singapore or Vietnam.

In an apparent response to Hun Sen’s remarks Thai government spokesman on Tuesday said the country’s ongoing political crisis will have no effects on its hosting of Asean ministerial and summit meetings.

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